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Muskrat Falls judicial inquiry terms of reference announced today

Today’s announcement is just a distraction, in time for Minister Caroline Bennett’s participation in a traditional sharing circle with the LLP as well as PM Trudeau’s upcoming visit to Labrador to apologize for residential schools, since they were not included in the original apology.

The fact that Trudeau is coming to apologize to the Indigenous people of Labrador while backing the cultural genocide that is Muskrat Falls is irony at it’s best. Or, worst.

None of the frontlines’ demands can happen if the construction continues.

Following up on his government’s announcement earlier this Fall, NL Premier Dwight Ball today announced the terms of reference for the judicial inquiry into the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

VOCM reports “Supreme Court Justice Richard LeBlanc will lead the inquiry which will begin in January and be completed by December 31, 2019.”

CBC News reported that the inquiry will include questions such as:

·       “Sanctioning: Were reasonable assumptions made? Were other options properly considered? Was the least-cost determination reasonable?

·       Execution: Were best practices used in dealing with contractors? Did contracts handed out lead to cost overruns and delays? Did contractors take on as much risk as they should have?

·       Was it justifiable to exclude the Public Utilities Board from oversight?”

·       Was government fully informed?

CBC’s before and after image of Muskrat Falls

VOCM also speculated that the project, now 86% complete, would not be stopped due to the results of the inquiry. Though I wish the reporter was wrong, this is a fair comment given construction is scheduled to be complete by 2020. If construction isn’t halted during the inquiry, it will be near completion when the report is released. This is why grassroots resistance and direct action is so critical – without direct intervention the government and Nalcor will happily continue to put thousands of people’s lives at risk in the name of profit.

Labrador Land Protectors, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and others have been demanding the methylmercury agreement reached last fall be respected. This agreement states that Nalcor would lower water levels to allow for clearing of vegetation and soil as a means of eliminating or dramatically decreasing the possibility of methylmercury poisoning. The agreement also required the establishment of an Independent Expert Advisory Panel (only completed late this summer) which would determine how to mitigate methylmercury contamination as part of their mandate.

This frontline community has been raising concerns relating to methylmercury and the safety of the North Spur for years, only to be ignored or placated by consecutive provincial and federal governments. 

The conditions outlined in the Methylmercury agreement can’t be met, an independent review of the stability of the North Spur can’t happen, and a full forensic audit and public inquiry of Nalcor relating to this project (nor the judicial review announced, which would not allow for the inclusion of cultural impacts, the environment or health impacts on the people of Labrador, particularly downstream of the project) does not make sense if the project is not stopped, at least temporarily.

The Council of Canadians stands with Labrador Land Protectors, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and others on the frontlines, trying to protect their land, water and communities. #ShutMuskratDown #MakeMuskratRight

Strategy session last week with (l-r) me, Gretchen Fitzgerald (Sierra Club), Peggy Cameron, Roberta Frampton-Benefiel (Grand Riverkeeper Labrador) and Stephen Thomas (Ecology Action Centre)

Stay tuned for other updates, but in the meantime:

– Listen to Denise Cole on CBC’s The Current tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 21Nov)

– Sign this Change.Org petition, “A Call to Suspend the Dangerous Operations at Muskrat Falls,” calling for a pause on construction while ensuring this project won’t kill people or communities or cultures. It outlines the many concerns from the frontlines.

– Watch this amazing APTN Investigates mini-doc on Muskrat Falls, titled “In the Shadow of the Dam; the failure of reconciliation at Muskrat Falls”, released just last Friday.

– Follow Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Roberta Frampton-Benefiel’s “Mega dams, Mega damage” tour in New England States to raise awareness of the origins of the Muskrat Falls power they might be buying.

Roberta speaking at a public event in Halifax last week, “Big Dams, Big Damage: Clean and green energy for whom?” Watch the video from this event here!